Father Rheal Forest

Courtesy CBC

Some misguided ‘men of God’ should never be allowed anywhere near a pulpit.

Father Rheal Forest is one of them.

During recent masses at Winnipeg’s St. Emile Roman Catholic Church, Forest accused some residential school survivors of lying about abuse just to get money from court settlements.

He also shockingly absolved priests and nuns of any wrongdoing, conveniently placing blame elsewhere.

Comments like this do nothing to foster healing, fuel anger, and put a target on the backs of innocent members of the Christian faith. 

That’s a careless thing to do in a climate where emotional wounds of residential school victims are raw; persecution of Christians in Canada is increasingly not only tolerated but encouraged; and criminals are looking for any excuse to torch the next church.

Forest, who was filling in for the regular vacationing priest, has been banned from publicly speaking by a Winnipeg archdiocese. The damage is done.

He told the congregation in his 22 years of working up north, all the indigenous people he knew liked the residential schools. 

Many who attended residential schools have come forward to say their experiences were good.  Many have also spoken of horrific abuse. Others simply didn’t survive to say.

So, in 22 years Forest never ran into a victim? Hard, no impossible, to believe. If that’s so, did people not feel they were able to confide in their priest?

And yes, he conceded, there was some abuse at the hands of night watchmen, but no, priests and nuns had nothing to do with that.

Contemptible man! Even if – and if is a big word – that’s true, it was the responsibility of those nuns and priests to protect those children from all physical and sexual abuse. 

Forest claimed indigenous people lied to get money. He shamefully insulted poor people, labelling them all as greedy and dishonest.

“If they wanted extra money, from the money that was given to them, they had to lie sometimes, lie that they were abused sexually and, oop, another $50,000,” Forest said.

“It’s kind of hard if you’re poor not to lie.”

Anywhere from $3 billion to $4.7 billion has been paid to thousands of people who claimed they were victims of abuse at residential schools.

Are there any false claims in there? It’s possible. 

But where is Forest’s proof? Well, he didn’t provide any. That’s the problem.

Proof has been an evasive, unnecessary, thing since the claims of the discovery of unmarked graves began to permeate the news several weeks ago.

There’s been no hesitance to portray these as genocidal death camps.

Media and race-baiters will seize on the stupidity of fools like Forest while conveniently downplaying what First Nations chiefs have to say.

Saskatchewan Chief Cadmus Delorm denounced these “discoveries” that were reported.

“This is not a mass gravesite. These are unmarked graves,” he said.

Former chief Sophie Pierre said her band always knew about the graves where human remains were detected in B.C. at the site of a former residential school.

There are many other chiefs who have shared the same observations. 

Ignoring their knowledge and input is the height of disrespect.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded in 2015 that the main causes of death of about 4,000 students were tuberculosis and influenza. Wooden crosses placed on their graves deteriorated over time.

Facts didn’t stop Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from staging a shameless photo op that was an insult to true victims – him kneeling at a site clutching a Teddy Bear.

Well, an election is looming, after all.

Racism wins political points in Canada. Racism is literally also big business in Canada. 

So those who offer different opinions, or buck the narrative, are crushed.

Not a fan of Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister’s COVID lockdowns. But he received unfair condemnation for daring to say not everyone is racist when statues of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth were toppled on Canada Day in response to the mass grave discoveries.

“The people who came here to this country before it was a country, and since, didn’t come here to destroy anything. They came here to build,” said Pallister.

The fallout for speaking the truth was stunning.

This is what Canada has become, a place where the truth is irrelevant if it doesn’t agree with the goal.

Almost 50 churches have been burned and desecrated in Canada since unmarked graves were allegedly discovered on former residential school sites.

Will we ever get to the bottom of how many really were abused? A probe by Manitoba RCMP into allegations of sexual abuse at the Fort Alexander residential school on Sagkeeng First Nation has been ongoing for more than a decade with no charges.

Meanwhile, opportunists wait like vultures for someone to say something, anything they can pounce on and use to promote their destructive causes. 

Every once in a while, some obliging fool comes along to feed the madness.

Forest emboldened the many, mostly for political reasons, who prefer creating shame and hysteria and division over getting to the truth behind all who lie in those graves and why.

Well done Father Forest. Well done.

Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard

Senior Columnist (Manitoba)

Linda Slobodian is the Senior Manitoba Columnist for the Western Standard based out of Winnipeg. She has been an investigative columnist for the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton Sun, and Alberta Report.

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